Friday, February 19, 2010

Adaptation to Survival--the church needs to cater to single adults in their 30s if it wants to keep them

Society is changing. Many people, including members of the church, don't get married until they're in their 30s. From what I've seen, the vast majority of single church members in their 30s would like to be married.
I'm turning 30 pretty soon. I guess I shouldn't be surprised when a song that came out during my mission gets airplay on the classic rock station. And while single adults (should) get kicked out of the young single adult ward when they turn 31, 31's not too far off for me. I'm happily married, but many of my friends are not, and when they turn 31, they have two or three options. First, they can enter a regular family ward. Second, they can enter an older singles ward, if there's one in the area. Third, they can go inactive.
The regular family ward is great for regular families and for older people, but for single people in their 30s and 40s? I'm trying to think of single people (active) between 30 and 45 in our ward, and I honestly don't think there are any. They don't really stick around. Older singles? Sure. Midsingles? Not so much.
Older singles wards don't exist in many areas, and where they do exist, they're attended mainly by those in their 50s. Hardly a great place for a 31-year-old man who's looking for an eternal companion.
So, most often, singles in their 30s go less active. The church largely ignores them, doesn't provide opportunities for a decent social life, so they leave.
Enter the "Midsingles" group.
The Midsingles group is for singles between 31 and 45. Every single in this age group in a stake (or a group of two or three stakes) can attend one specific family ward--so all of the active midsingles in a specific geographic area can meet and socialize together. If they can meet in the same building as the young single adults, so much the better--many of them will be friends with the YSA, and a man that just turned 31 will still be able to interact with his largest dating pool--young women between the ages of 27 and 30. The singles can receive regular callings in the family ward, but then participate in activities just for themselves (FHE, etc.) The family ward provides a primary, so those midsingles with children can still attend as a family.
Like with regular YSA wards, midsingles can choose to stay in their home ward or go here; less active midsingles stay with their home ward.
This program is currently going on--most of it seems to be in California. See for more details.
I'm wondering if there are enough midsingles in Cincinnati to warrant this program--our ward, as small as it is (average attendance of 80) and in the same building as the YSA branch, would be the perfect place. Would this work where you are? Do you see any downsides?


Joella said...

This is something that happens by area. It isn't a program that every stake participates in. Also, in my area more midsingle girls are excited about the midsingle idea then guys. (Many of my friends that are guys don't like the idea of being the youngest in the dating pool...thus don't do midsingle things until they are 35 or so.)I even tried to get just a midsingle institute class going, but that didn't pan out. I wish that there was something for me to look forward to this year when I turn 31...but we shall see. I think it is good that something is being done in other stakes and wards...just wish there was more of it where I am.

Tim said...

Cool that someone else knows about this. It does look like it's fairly limited in scope at this point (Utah, Cali, a couple of other places)--I hope it picks up. The cool part, to me, is that all you need is 10 midsingles (and I imagine at least 3 of them will have to be guys for the whole hometeaching thing to work) to form a magnet ward--a midsingles group integrated into a regular family ward. And it can grow from there.
I think there should be some flexibility in the program--perhaps allow 30 and 31-year-olds to choose which ward they attend (and then don't allow 32-year-old guys to attend the YSA ward, so they're forced into the midsingles ward). It's also important that the midsingles stay in contact with the YSA--meet in the same building, etc. so guys still have access to a younger dating pool. (As a side note, I think guys that only go after younger girls are lame.)
It doesn't necessarily have to be kept to just one stake. Apparently, some midsingles groups are formed by two stakes; I imagine if they tried that system in Cincinnati, they'd bring people in from all 3 stakes (just like they do for the YSA branch here).
I think it's great you tried setting something up. Maybe if you could convince the YSA ward to kick out all guys the minute they turn 31, you could have some more momentum for the midsingles thing...

Cougarg said...

A friend of mine in the YSA ward turned 31 this last summer. He left as soon as he hit his birthday. But instead of attending the home ward (our current ward) he started ward hopping looking for girls. He spent two plus months away from a ward where he could have any responsibilities. He was the exec. sec. in the YSA ward and a really great guy. He's never had a girlfriend, and usually gets turned down for second dates. I just don't get it. Now that Am and I am in the Primary, I don't get much chance to interact with him. But I'm sure he feels out of place, he always beats us back to the condos where we live. He needs a place where he can be given responsibilities, real responsibilities. I think single guys tend to be overlooked in the family wards. I think its a shame, any girl would be lucky to have him as a husband I think.

Jay said...

I generally agree that the Church should be considering better ways of helping all its members feel included and involved. Talks by General Authorities in recent years about ministering to "the one," I think, should be interpreted by leaders and members as including a commitment to meet the needs of single adults among others. I think there are many cases where single adults are struggling spiritually in ways that they can't deal with all by themselves, and leaders and members need to be ready to provide support in those situations.

On the flip side, a "mid-single" like me needs to recognize that maybe my reasons for being involved in the Church need to be more broad than just the goal of getting married. I believe there are many single adults who just need to get serious about their faith again. They need to be aiming to be more spiritually and socially self-reliant. This is not to say they should cut themselves off from everyone else and never rely on others for increased strength. It is to say that no one should immediately expect someone else to take primary responsibility for feeding their testimonies, or providing them with a social life.

Tim said...

Bill--thanks for the comment. It's hard not fitting in anywhere.

Jay--you've still got another year (almost) before you officially get to the "midsingle" point. I agree that each person is responsible for their own decisions in life. The decision to stay active, however, is much easier if you have a support group, and my experience is that most family wards are lousy support groups for single people under the age of 40 or 50.
If we can convince midsingles that they are needed, appreciated, and useful (and provide some social support for them), they're much more likely to stick around. Right now though, in most places, it's not happening.

mr.brighton said...

I don't know why we don't just have single wards. It seems like there are plenty of singles of all ages and they could all benefit from the social aspect of the singles ward. Was it really a problem to split it? Were 31 year olds hitting on 18 year olds? I teach 18 year olds now (I'm 33) and can't imagine wanting to date someone that young. I always thought that the rule was more punitive than anything else. You get 12 years at this fun social ward and if you haven't found anyone you're out!

That being said, church should be more about the worship than the opportunity to meet someone available...

Tim said...

I think the problem's more that 45-year-olds are hitting on 23-year-olds...
I like the idea of age restrictions. But I think, as general practice, there should be organizations for three ages: 18 to 30, 28 to 42, and 40 and up.
Some flexibility, so 29-year-old women can go to a ward with older guys if they want, and 30-year-old men don't have to move on quite yet if they don't want to.
Part of church is community and a sense of belonging, and our church is so family-centered that I think a lot of the time singles feel left out. Singles wards and groups help remedy that problem.